Missed free throws and turnovers prove costly for Panthers in loss to Tift County

Published 11:45 pm Saturday, January 28, 2023

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AMERICUS – Saturday night’s varsity boys game between Sumter County (SCHS) and Tift County (TC) went down to the last few seconds and the Panthers had their chances to pull out a victory. However, turnovers and missed free throws down the stretch proved to be the Panthers’ undoing in a 41-40 loss to TC at the Panther Den.

Coming into this game, SCHS was on an 11-game winning streak, but as a result of the loss, the Panthers fall to 14-6 on the season, while the Blue Devils improve to 14-5.

“At the end of the day, it came down to missed free throws. We also missed key free throws in the first half,” SCHS Head Coach Johnny Genwright said. “We had turnovers right there at the end. My guys kept fighting. I liked it that they played hard ad kept fighting, but we just didn’t execute at the end and we missed free throws. We were on a winning streak, so we are going to need that loss to get back in the gym and work harder.”

Sumter County junior guard Anthony Tyson directs the offense for the Panthers.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

SCHS had three players score in double figures. Cameron Evans led the Panthers in scoring with 16 points, Brandon Pope had 12 and D. J. Hurley chipped in 10 in the losing cause.

After one quarter of play, the Panthers trailed 14-8, but Anthony Tyson brought SCHS within three on a three-pointer with a little over six minutes to go before halftime.

Over the first couple of minutes of the second quarter, the Blue Devils jumped out to an 18-11 lead, but SCHS went on a 6-1 run that was capped off with a basket from Pope.

Over the final two and a half minutes of the first half, both teams traded baskets, but with 13 seconds to go, D.J. Hurley brought the Panthers to within two at 23-21 on a jumper and that would be the halftime score.

Pope led the Panthers in first half scoring with nine of his game total of 12 points.

Over the first three minutes of the third quarter, the Panthers struggled offensively and that allowed TC to go on a 6-3 run before Evans got a steal and a one-handed dunk to bring the Panthers to within four at 29-25.

Sumter County senior guard D.J. Hurley scored 10 points in the Panthers’ 41-40 loss to Tift County.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

Shortly thereafter, Evans electrified the crowd once again when he drained a three-pointer to bring the Panthers within one at 31-30. By this time, the fans of both schools had more energy and the pace of play began to pick up.

With 1:45 remaining in the third quarter, Pope tied the game at 31-31 after getting fouled and making one of two foul shots. However, momentum swung back in favor of the Blue Devils when they finished the third quarter by going on a 6-0 to take a 37-31 lead with one more quarter still to play.

With about 35 seconds having gone in the fourth quarter, Pope brought SCHS within three on a three-pointer. Shortly thereafter, he hit another three-pointer from the top of the ley to tie the game at 37-37. Then with 5:19 to go, Hurley gave the Panthers a 40-38 lead on a three-pointer, electrifying the crowd and swinging the momentum back in favor of SCHS.

After timeout was called with 5:07 to go in the game, TC would tie the game at 40-40, but both teams played scoreless basketball over the next two and a half minutes, as both teams ratcheted up their defensive pressure and forced each other into committing turnovers.

TC took the lead on a made free throw with a little less than two minutes to play, but unfortunately for SCHS, Canaan Jackson, after having been fouled, missed both foul shots that would have given the Panthers the lead.

After timeout was called with 38 seconds left, TC had the ball, but was called for an offensive foul. This gave the ball back to the Panthers with 27.5 seconds left and a chance to win the game on the last shot. With 17.3 seconds left, Genwright called a timeout to design a game-winning play.

Out of the timeout, the Panthers’ shot was missed, but Evans was able to get an offensive rebound with 6.2 seconds left when Genwright used another timeout.

Out of that timeout, SCHS inbounded the basketball and Evans tried to drive baseline and score, but his shot was blocked and the ball glanced off an SCHS player and out of bounds, giving TC possession with 4.1 seconds left. Once the ball was inbounded, the Panthers fouled and TC’s Tyler Parker went to the foul line to shoot one and one. However, Parker missed the free throw and the Panthers got the rebound with three seconds left and one last chance for a game-winning shot.

The ball was inbounded to Hurley and Genwright immediately called his final timeout with 2.5 seconds left. Out of the timeout, the ball was inbounded to Evans just shy of midcourt, but he wasn’t able to get a shot off and the Panthers were handed a 41-40 defeat at the hands of the Blue Devils.

The Panthers (14-6, 8-0 Region 1-AA) will not play until next Saturday, February 4 when they step back into Region 1-AA against Berrien at the Panther Den. Tip off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. SCHS is currently in first place in the Region 1-AA standings.